WHEN: 8:25 pm EST, March 13th, 2013
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: I just finished a long day of work. I’m eating Girl Scout cookies in an effort to bribe my body into staying awake for my viewing.
There are things about The Neverending Story that have been bothering me. And I mean The Neverending Story, not The NeverEnding Story. Specifically, The Neverending Story in The NeverEnding Story, not the The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Got it? I’ll try my best to make it obvious which incarnation I’m talking about.
To clarify: this is the book in the movie based on the book that has this book in it.
What has been bothering me, is that the rules around The Neverending Story are never made quite clear or explained in The NeverEnding Story. The levels of meta do not help with this. During my viewing, I compiled a list of questions that occurred to me. Now, it’s time to look deeper into this crazy book and to try to figure out the science behind the fantasy.
First, there’s the bookseller, Mr. Koreander. As Bastian slowly moves further into the shop, we see that there are no new books with shiny covers. This appears to be a bookstore that specializes in old, hardcover tomes. These are probably rare editions and special collections that Koreander sells. There certainly aren’t many customers milling around the place. The only hint that Koreander has any customers is a phone call supposedly from someone looking for a specific book. This is all pertinent because his ownership of The Neverending Story is mysterious. Koreander knows what is contained within the book, but he is also reading it when Bastian appears. But Koreander isn’t in the middle of saving Fantasia. This may be for a few reasons. The Neverending Story may be “activated” only when a child reads it. Koreander is obviously not a youth, so he can read it without fear. Next, Koreander is only part-way through reading, so he may have just read about Bastian’s morning, just as the viewers of The NeverEnding Story had seen it happen. Lastly, Koreander could be some kind of gate keeper. He may be tasked with guarding The Neverending Story until a suitable candidate, like Bastian, appears to save Fantasia. This also means that Koreander is actually a Fantasian living in the ordinary world. We know this could be possible since Falkor enters Bastian’s world with the power of a magic wish. It’s obvious Koreander wants Bastian to take the book since he uses the tried-and-true method of reverse psychology.
“This book contains explicit nudity and gratuitous violence. Go back to your video games, where it’s safe.”
It appears that The Neverending Story is meant for children only. The themes in the movie suggest this. Bastian has been told to grow up, accept responsibility, keep his feet on the ground, and stop drawing unicorns on his math homework. He lives in fantasy and escapes into any of his 186 books at home. The heroes within The Neverending Story are also kids like Bastian. Atreyu and the Childlike Empress have great powers despite being children. So, if the book is only meant for children, how many other children have read The Neverending Story? The book looks old and is in Koreander’s ancient tomes specialty shop, so we can surmise that it has some age behind it. This means that Fantasia has been in a state of near-destruction possibly for decades, maybe centuries. Of course, only if Fantasia is meant to have one hero, or if there is only one copy of The Neverending Story. Multiple copies means that there are many other children attempting to save Fantasia. This strategy seems valid, more copies means more chances of finding a savior. However, more copies also means more children placed through existential crises and running to tell their parents. Bastian may be the ultimate hero after a series of failed attempts by others. The others may not have been able to pass the tests, such as the Magic Mirror Gate, and left The Neverending Story unfinished and Fantasia in perpetual turmoil.
“Turn the damn page!”
Speaking of the Magic Mirror Gate, let’s discuss how blurry the lines between Fantasia and the ordinary world get. First, there’s Bastian screaming when Morla the Ancient One appears in all her giant turtle glory. Morla and Atreyu hear the scream. In order for Bastian to read about his own scream, The Neverending Story must be written in real time. So, why doesn’t Bastian skip ahead? Perhaps the scream is just a coincidence since the Swamps of Sadness are prone to death and whatnot. But at the Magic Mirror Gate, Bastian throws the book across the room in disbelief and denial. Atreyu sees his true self in the mirror and what he sees is a little boy reading The Neverending Story in an attic. In the film, it looks like Atreyu clearly sees Bastian in the mirror. Bastian looks up, but it is unclear if he actually sees Atreyu or only reads about Atreyu seeing Bastian. Either way, Bastian begins to doubt his sanity, but doesn’t look ahead in the book! I get that he’s a seasoned reader and doesn’t want spoilers, but if you start to read about yourself, wouldn’t you want to check, just in case? However, if the book is being written in real time, then even if he did skip ahead, Bastian may only find blank pages. Again, another reason to toss the demon book.
Not that hard, you little shit.
If The Neverending Story is written as it is being read, then that means that the story itself changes each time a new child reads it. The hypothetical other children have created their own version of The Neverending Story which just gets rewritten each time the book is read. Who is writing this book? Bastian, an avid reader, doesn’t even look for an author on the cover. At the end of the film, a narrator suddenly appears to provide a wrap-up of The NeverEnding Story. This phantom narrator could also be the “author.” The author obviously would be a Fantasian tasked to find a way to save his or her world from the Nothing. Alternately, there are magical occurrences in Bastian’s world and somebody created the book in order to save humanity from itself. Or the Nothing. Or the power behind the Nothing. Humanity needs to be saved or whatever from something vague.
This brings up the next question about more crossover between The Neverending Story and Bastian’s world. If the Nothing is destroying Fantasia as well as people’s hopes, then would there be more evidence in the real world? There’s no evidence in the film that Bastian’s world is suffering from some plague of lost dreams. While G’mork attests that the Nothing is a kind of despair left when people give up on their hopes and dreams, there is the possibility that the Nothing is only destroying Bastian (or the current reader). Bastian is in a state of depression because of his mother’s death, he isn’t getting any emotional support from his father, and he gets bullied at school. Bastian is losing hope and giving up on his escape into the world of fantasy. He triumphantly yells, “I will do what I dream!” before he calls out the Empress’ new name. The Neverending Story may exist not to save Fantasia, but as a way to save the children of the world from slipping into the drudgery of adulthood. But what about the Nothing? In theory, with Fantasia and Bastian saved, the Nothing has been defeated. But the power behind the Nothing is still out there, somewhere.
In your nightmares.
The Neverending Story has so many rules that may or may not apply to it. Just to let you all in on a bit of extra information, a lot of the rules and explanations behind The Neverending Story are explained in the novel The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. However, the movie does not take time to give any of that information. Probably because most children aren’t going to question the logic behind a fantasy book. The amount of meta that you have to sift through to make The Neverending Story make sense is nearly intolerable. The levels of worlds within worlds is a great concept, but I just want to know how this fantasy machine works.